Saturday, August 26, 2023

Lion and Lamb: The Book With the Wittiest Banter This Side of Nick and Nora

Scott D. Parker

“They can catch a killer—if they don’t kill each other first.”

That’s the tagline for LION & LAMB, the new novel by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski, released just a couple of weeks ago and I downloaded the audiobook that very day. Yet I had to finish another book before I pushed play on Lion & Lamb, but as soon as it started, I wondered why it took me so long.

Okay, fine, it was only a week.

Quarterback Archie Hughes of the Philadelphia Eagles is a week away from starting in the NFC Championship Game, the last step before the Super Bowl. And he’s found dead in his car.

But things don’t add up. That’s when Philly’s two most high-profile private investigators take opposing sides of the case. Witty, charming, and roguishly handsome Cooper Lamb is hired to find out the truth for the widow, Francine Hughes. The district attorney’s office reaches out to Veena Lion, a wicked-smart PI who can be as cold as her martinis but coy with what she knows.

The pair have a past and it’s referenced from time to time, but that just makes this pairing and their wonderful tete-a-tete that much more fun. We get to avoid the meet-cute and just get plopped down in the middle of what is the highest-profile case they’ve handled.

I am a shoe-in for “Nick and Nora”-type stories: The Thin Man movies, Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, and The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal. So I was already in the bag for a tale like, but here’s the real secret:

This book is So Much Fun!

Patterson is known for many things, but high-speed pacing is certainly among the top things you think about when you consider reading one of his novels. From the jump, you are plunged into the action and sent barreling from one scene to the next. Swierczynski, a native of Philly, added lots of local color and I suspect local Philadelphians got a kick out of all the places mentioned.

The mystery at the center of the book is twisty—NOTE: I have not finished the book yet, but I couldn’t wait to write about it—but it is the characters that jump off the page (or out of my earbuds) and land fully formed.

I’m an avid audiobook listener and the two main narrators are so good at their readings that you basically don’t need the attributions. Lisa Flanagan embodies Veena just as if she stepped out of a 1940s PI film but with an utterly modern sensibility. Her tone alone lets the listener in on just how much (or little) Veena thinks about certain characters. Corey Carthew is the voice of Lamb and you can hear the sing-song snark just eek out of every piece of dialogue. He’s a single father with a young daughter and son and the relationship between that trio is fantastic. It’s like Lamb is having the time of his life trying to solve this case.

A third narrator, Joshua Kane, uses his deep baritone to let us know the chapter names and the scenes. His voice is one that when I looked him up, I realized I recognized from, of all things, commercials.

When you find a book or characters that you instantly form a connection with, you just want more and more stories. As a writer, I know how long the process can take.

Which is why I’m requesting, on behalf of all the reading audience, that Patterson and Swierczynski write a new Lion and Lamb novel every year.

Oh, and TV execs? Read this one. And then make the series. Call me. I’ve got some ideas on casting.


Holly West said...

I love Duane but hadn't decided to read this until I saw your post. Now I definitely will. Thanks!

Scott D. Parker said...

Holly, I finished yesterday--after the review went live--and I very much enjoyed this book. One of my favs of the year. The ending actually was a surprise.